3 Top Biotech Stocks to Buy Now

By Keith Speights Markets Fool.com

Don't fret about political uncertainties; now is a great time to buy biotech stocks. Three big biotechs, in particular, look to be solid picks. Here's why AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV), Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG), and Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD) are three top biotech stocks you can buy right now.

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AbbVie: Great dividend, great products, great pipeline

You won't find a biotech with a better dividend than AbbVie. The dividend yield currently stands at 4.19% after a hefty increase in October. AbbVie is only using 60% of its earnings to fund dividend payments, so the company shouldn't have any trouble keeping the dividends flowing.

AbbVie is more than just a dividend play, though. The company's top-selling drug, Humira, continues to churn out solid growth. Cancer drug Imbruvica has vaulted into the No. 2 spot in AbbVie's lineup, with sales more than tripling year over year in the first three quarters of 2016.

The biotech's pipeline looks really good as well. AbbVie has eight candidates in 12 late-stage clinical studies. I like the prospects for veliparib, which is being evaluated for treatment of breast cancer, lung cancer, and ovarian cancer. Experimental blood cancer drug Venclexta also appears to be promising. AbbVie could have yet another blockbuster on its hands if all goes well with Elagolix, which targets treatment of endometriosis and uterine fibroids.

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Analysts project average annual growth of more than 15% for AbbVie over the next few years. That seems quite attainable in my view. With its great dividend, great product lineup, and great pipeline prospects, AbbVie is definitely a biotech stock that investors should check out.

Celgene: One of the best growth prospects around

Celgene doesn't have a dividend like AbbVie does, but the big biotech has an even better growth story. Over the past five years, Celgene's adjusted earnings per share has increased by a compounded annual growth rate of 25%.

The company has achieved that sizzling growth in large part due to its lead product, Revlimid. Sales for the blood cancer drug continue to surge. Celgene expects 17% year-over-year growth in 2017. Sales for another blood cancer drug, Pomalyst/Imnovid, should increase by 22% this year.

Celgene's biggest rising star, though, is Otezla. The company expects sales for the autoimmune disease drug will grow by 57% in 2017. Otezla appears to be on track to become Celgene's next drug to generate more than $1 billion in annual sales.

What about the outlook for future growth? Celgene projects average adjusted earnings per share will grow by 22% annually over the next four years. The companyexpects results from 18 late-stage clinical studies by the end of 2018. That number includes two studies for potentially the biggest pipeline prospect -- ozanimod. Celgene hopes to submit for regulatory approval for ozanimod in treating multiple sclerosis by the end of this year.

Gilead Sciences: Probably the best biotech value stock

AbbVie is the best biotech dividend stock, and Celgene is one of the best biotech growth stocks, but Gilead Sciences is perhaps the best biotech value stock on the market. Gilead's stock trades at less than seven times forward earnings.

As inexpensive as that figure might sound, it really doesn't fully reflect how much of a value stock Gilead actually is. The biotech reported a cash position of $31.6 billion (including cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities) as of Sept. 30, 2016. Gilead has enough money on hand to buy back roughly one-third of its stock.

While Gilead is buying back a good chunk of its shares (to the tune of $10 billion in the first three quarters of 2016), I don't expect the biotech will use all of its money to repurchase shares. For one thing, Gilead uses some of its cash to pay out a nice dividend. Its yield is 2.65% right now and seems likely to rise, since Gilead is using less than 17% of its earnings to fund its dividend payments.

It's true that Gilead's revenue and earnings have dropped due to slower sales for its hepatitis C virus (HCV) franchise. However, the biotech's HIV drugs continue to generate solid growth. Gilead also has a promising pipeline, especially with its three experimental non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) drugs.

Best of the bunch

All three of these biotech stocks are great picks, in my opinion. I currently own two of them (Celgene and Gilead) and would probably buy AbbVie as well if I didn't have already have enough exposure to healthcare in my investment portfolio. Which is the best pick of the three? I'd go with Celgene.

What I like most about Celgene is that the company has a clear and quite achievable plan to grow by 22% over the next few years. Celgene could afford to pay a dividend like AbbVie and Gilead Sciences do, but it's instead reinvesting more of its money into its pipeline and forging partnerships with smaller biotechs. I think that strategy will continue to pay off over the long run -- and make investors plenty of money in the process.

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Keith Speights owns shares of Celgene and Gilead Sciences. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Celgene and Gilead Sciences. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.